American Academy of Neurology Says Doctors Should Routinely Screen Patients for Abuse

senior%20in%20the%20dark.jpgThe American Academy of Neurology’s most recent position statement on abuse and violence recommends that neurologists screen patients for abusive treatment as part of their regular routine. As our North County elder abuse lawyers know, seniors are at serious risk of being mistreated or abused. Unfortunately, abusers often turn out to be the people we expect to be able to trust the most, including nurses, group home staff, and other caretakers.

California elder abuse law prohibits commonly known types of abuse—such as physical or sexual abuse—as well as the negligent failure of caretakers to exercise reasonable caution in the care or custody of an elderly person. That includes providing proper care for a senior’s medical and mental health needs and protecting elders from health and safety hazards. The American Academy of Neurology’s position statement defines elder abuse as abuse or neglect of a person 65 years or older, or of an individual who is physically or mentally disabled.

According to the American Academy of Neurology, the American Medical Association encouraged physicians in 2008 to ask patients about family violence histories on a regular basis because such information is crucial to effective diagnosis and care. Failure to do so can lead to further physical or emotional harm and treatment failure. The authors of the position statement, Elliott A. Shulman, M.D., and Anna DePold Hohler, M.D., state that identification of a patient’s abuse history, if any, is important because it can influence the assessment and treatment of presenting health concerns.

The position statement identifies a relationship between abuse and neurological diseases. Specifically, it explains that abuse can affect the development of neurological disease. For example, more than 90% of intimate partner violence injuries occur to the face, head, and neck and may be associated with traumatic brain injury. Adults who experience verbal abuse suffer from higher rates of depression, irritability, and somatization (a chronic condition in which an individual has physical symptoms involving multiple parts of the body, but no physical cause can be found). Sadly, the position statement also notes that persons with physical disabilities, such as Parkinson disease or stroke, or mental disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s, are at a higher risk of being abused.

Many elders may not even realize they are being abused, or may not want to acknowledge it, particularly if the abuser is a friend, family member, or caretaker. Our San Diego nursing home abuse attorneys know that abusers frequently employ emotional abuse (such as bullying, isolating behavior, or financial abuse) as a way to control their victims. California, like all U.S. states, requires reporting of abuse of the elderly and disabled. In California, Adult Protective Services and the California Department of Public Health are excellent resources if you are concerned that a loved one is suffering from neglect or abuse.

Prompt reporting is essential to preventing further abuse. The San Diego area elder abuse attorneys at the Walton Firm know that any unexplained injury or death could be the result of abuse or neglect. Reporting abuse or neglect helps ensure the safety of all California seniors.

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